Scranton Times-Tribune: Flood victims get help from banks, companies to the tune of more than $1 million

BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK

MSC President Kathryn Klaber: “While no amount of contributions will ever overcome the crisis of the last several weeks in northern Pennsylvania, the flood response once again has underscored the importance of close-knit communities during difficult times.”

Area businesses are donating more $1 million in money, goods and services to aid victims struggling to recover from widespread flooding across Northeast Pennsylvania.

Among the more recent donations:

– The Marcellus Shale Coalition says its member natural gas drilling-related companies have donated about $1 million in cash and in-kind services.

– The owner and operator of seven Northeast Pennsylvania La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, Frank J. Hager, plans to donate $200,000 worth of sofas, chairs, recliners, area rugs, tables and other accessories to the Salvation Army to distribute to flood victims who lost their furniture in the disaster, the Salvation Army announced.

– Wal-Mart has donated $50,000 in store gift cards, according to the Salvation Army.

– First National Community Bank announced it would sell “I’m Part of the Valley With A Heart 2011” T-shirts at $10 apiece and donate the proceeds to the Salvation Army.

Shane A. Autrey, a spokesman for the Salvation Army team dealing with local flood victims, said the furniture will be delivered Monday to its Sugar Notch warehouse, but who gets it will be determined by need through the Salvation Army’s screening process. Victims should not go to the warehouse to get furniture, Mr. Autrey said.

They should apply at one of four Salvation Army disaster assistance centers – 17 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre; 214 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston; 320 W. 2nd St., Berwick; and First Presbyterian Church, 345 Market St., Bloomsburg.

“It’s going to go a long way to helping people get back into a sense of normalcy,” he said.

To be eligible to receive furniture and Walmart gift cards, victims must first register for help with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and obtain a FEMA case number, then visit a Salvation Army center and apply. The Salvation Army will consider existing applications for help that victims filled out before the furniture became available as well as new applications, Mr. Autrey said.

“It was donated to the people who need it the most,” he said. “We’re going to figure out what they need. They might leave our facility after they meet with us … with a food box that will feed them for four, eight or 12 days or a Walmart gift card to get them some clothes. Then, as they start getting into their homes and getting their lives back in order, we can prioritize who needs what furniture. We haven’t received it yet so we don’t know yet what all we’re getting.”

Efforts to reach Mr. Hager were unsuccessful.

The T-shirts are the brainchild of employees at Dunmore-based First National Community.

The shirts feature a logo designed by bank vice president of marketing Judy LaCouture. They are on sale at the bank’s 21 branches in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne and Monroe counties. Branch employees will wear the shirts today.

Ms. LaCouture, 48, who lives in Plains Twp. outside the flood zone, said she remembered the Wyoming Valley earned the nickname “Valley With A Heart” during the aftermath of the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood.

“I thought that rather than writing a check, we wanted to sort of get involved in the community,” Ms. LaCouture said. “I still remember what that (slogan) meant to people. There was a sense of community that really was impressive.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition President and Executive Director Kathryn Z. Klaber said coalition-member companies – including Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Chief Oil & Gas, EXCO Resources, Pennsylvania General Energy, Penn Virginia Resource (PVR) Partners, Range Resources, Talisman Energy USA, Williams, and XTO Energy – also donated equipment, expertise, supplies, temporary housing and manpower to flood victims and communities.

Their financial contributions went directly to organizations such as the American Red Cross, Meshoppen Volunteer Fire Company, Salvation Army, United Way and the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Klaber said in a press release Thursday. Many of the companies have donated excavating equipment, dump trucks, vacuum trucks, and tankers filled with drinking water to aid the cleanup and relief efforts, she said.

“While no amount of contributions will ever overcome the crisis of the last several weeks in northern Pennsylvania, the flood response once again has underscored the importance of close-knit communities during difficult times,” said Ms. Klaber.

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